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Sunday, 3 February 2013

NFL Super Bowl XLVIII Pick (February 3 2013)

It is almost time to close the NFL season as everybody is getting ready to watch the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

The season as a whole looked to be going pretty well for me until Week 12-17 when I couldn't pick the winner in a one horse race and it was those weeks that have effectively ensure a losing season. However, thanks to a very effective Play Off campaign, the season will at least end of a more positive note and take a large chunk out of the losses that were incurred, particularly those in Week 14.

Anyway, below you can see my breakdown of the big game and my pick for the winner of the NFL this season.

Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Pick: Both of these teams have come in with plenty of momentum and this is a game that has had me going back and forth over the last couple of weeks with my pick initially going to be the San Francisco 49ers, but now I have changed my mind and I like Baltimore with the points in what could be a close SuperBowl.

Baltimore's Defense is playing better in the last month than they have at any point this season and I think they have enough in them to make life difficult for Colin Kaepernick after doing the same to both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the Play Offs. The imminent retirement of Ray Lewis has inspired this veteran unit to raise their level, while the youngsters are showing they are capable of playing in this League.

The mobile Quarter Back has hurt Baltimore earlier in the season with both Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III having big games against them, but Paul Kruger has come into the starting Defense since then and been a real handful for Offensive Lines, while Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata are healthier now than at any point.

At the start of the Play Offs, I would have considered the Baltimore run Defense to be a real problem for them, but they have improved on that front and I think they can keep Kaepernick and Frank Gore in relative check to make sure the young signal caller has to move the chains with his arm at times.

Both Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis should be able to make some plays, but the Baltimore Secondary has also been playing very well despite missing a key player in Ladarius Webb- however the Ravens have the Number 1 ranked pass Defense in the Play Offs despite playing Quarter Backs like Manning and Brady and they also have become very stout in the red zone despite letting teams move into that zone.

So while San Francisco should be able to move the ball, grabbing touchdowns instead of field goals is going to be the key for the Niners to pick up the win.

On the other side of the ball, Joe Flacco has shown why he has been demanding the big money contract and he looks certain to get what he wants in the off-season. Flacco is a polarising Quarter Back, but he was one catch away from playing in the SuperBowl last season and seems to come alive in the post-season. The QB has thrown 8 touchdown passes in the last 3 games and he has also yet to throw an interception.

With the Offensive Line finally offering Flacco some real protection, he should be able to attack the San Francisco Secondary which remains vulnerable to the deep ball and I can see Baltimore moving the chains through Flacco in this one. Aldon Smith has struggled to make the same impact in the pass rush as he did in the regular season thanks to the injury suffered by Justin Smith and if Flacco gets time, this could be tough for the Niners to stop Baltimore through the air.

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce will also still get a healthy dose of the ball and it will be interesting to see how the Niners Defense reacts to their presence. It has been tough to run on San Francisco all season, but if they are focused on stopping the deep ball, there could be some running lanes for Rice and Pierce to exploit. Ray Rice has been a particular disappointment in the post-season, especially since his 2 fumbles against Indianapolis, but this looks like the stage in which he could shine.

I don't expect Rice and Pierce to combine for 200 yards or anything like that on the ground, but I think they will have success as Atlanta did, especially considering the pair are better than Michael Turner in my opinion. However, they may be used in a lot of screen passes as well as running the ball to get the Niners cheating forward and give Flacco room to exploit the Secondary with Torrey Smith's speed.

As I said, I can make a serious case for both of these teams and that is why my pick has changed a couple of times over the last couple of weeks. I just can't help think that Baltimore are playing with a certain level of destiny behind them, particularly after the way they beat Denver with a 'Hail Mary' pass allowing the game to go to overtime.

There are also a couple of trends that I have read that favour Baltimore... The team that is seeded higher in the SuperBowl (where it happens) is 1-12-2 against the spread going back to 1996; Teams that have started in the Wild Card Round are 7-0 against the spread in the SuperBowl in the last ten seasons.

Baltimore fans will also tell you about the similarities between this and the New York Giants success in 2007 when Michael Strahan retired as Champion, while a much maligned Quarter Back won their first SuperBowl (Eli Manning)... I am not sure the Ravens win, but I am taking the more than a field goal head start in this one.

SuperBowl Pick: Baltimore Ravens 23-24 San Francisco 49ers

MY PICKS: Baltimore Ravens + 4 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Conference Round: 2-0, + 4 Units
Divisional Round: 2-0, + 2.90 Units
Wild Card Round: 4-0, + 7.68 Units
Week 17: 3-6, - 4.26 Units
Week 16: 6-4, + 6.68 Units
Week 15: 3-6, - 5 Units
Week 14: 1-8, - 12.16 Units
Week 13: 0-3. - 6 Units
Week 123-6, - 7.15 Units
Week 118-1, + 12.99 Units
Week 104-4, + 0.74 Units
Week 93-3, + 1.64 Units
Week 84-3, + 2.58 Units
Week 73-3-2, + 0.58 Units
Week 63-5, - 5.26 Units
Week 52-5, - 6.24 Units
Week 46-3, + 2.50 Units
Week 34-3, + 0.95 Units
Week 26-4, + 3.92 Units
Week 13-6, - 6.76 Units

Season 2012: 52-59-4, - 6.07 Units

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